Featured Glass Artist: Terry Gomien

Terry grew up in Bridgeport on the South side of Chicago (a blue-collar neighborhood at the time). As an artistic person, she felt like something of an oddity there but quickly grew into her passions in high school. This really took off when she pursued a BFA in Industrial Design at the University of Illinois (while independently studying metalsmithing).

Terry began her creative career as a toy inventor for Hasbro, then Big Monster Toys (where she worked on things like Barbie, Elmo, Furby and other toy lines). It was a very fast paced environment where engineering and technical people worked alongside designers and creative folks to put out concepts for the toy industry. It was a great career but could be creatively draining. After spending all day creating and innovating, Terry would go home and feel spent.

A New Beginning

Once her kids were born, Terry decided to stay at home and be with them. She still had all of this creative energy that she wanted to get out there, so she worked on projects with her kids but there was only so much she could do. She needed another, bigger outlet for her creativity. While she had been working at BMT, Terry had seen a magazine feature on a metalsmith that draped glass over her frameworks. She was intrigued by the concept, but had been swiftly drawn away to the myriad of responsibilities and duties of her job.

Now looking for a new creative path, Terry remembered her initial interest in glass and signed up for a class at Lill Street Art Center in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago. She learned enough of the basics there to realize that she adored fusing glass and craved a deeper understanding. She went out to take a class at Bullseye Glass in Portland, Oregon. She was hooked.

While at Bullseye Glass, the instructors (helpfully) asked her why she wasn’t buying her glass from Ed Hoy’s in Warrenville. As a purely retail buyer of glass, Terry had no idea what they were talking about. They put her in contact with us, and she’s been getting her glass much, much closer to home ever since!

Sharing Her Talent

Terry also volunteered to teach what she had learned at Bullseye to local students in our classes. Looking back on it now, Terry feels amazed that at that time in her career, she had thought she knew enough to teach others. But she has really endeavored to give people a solid foundation of glass fusing fundamentals, so they wouldn’t have to go through the trial and error she had struggled with.  Her first teaching project with a group was with her 3-year old daughters Montessori class in Rogers Park. Working carefully with very small groups of students, she taught them to make simple 4×4 tiles (which she tack fused onto a larger piece). The piece turned out beautifully and was placed into a steel framework welded by her husband. It was auctioned for a fundraiser and the buyers eventually donated it to the school. She wonders if it still hangs in the front window of her daughters classroom.

Growing Her Business

A truly pivotal moment for Terry’s growth was working with the American Craft Council’s emerging artist program. Called “Hip Pop,” the program nurtured her skills and helped her build relationships with companies like Artful Home which helped her turn her passion into a business. When considering her art as a business, she said that she had always carried with her something one of her teachers had said: “If you love to do this, do what you need to do, to do this everyday.”

One of the greatest challenges of doing that, she says, is production. Balancing between making something that you love and consider art, and being able to make it again and again for others to buy. This is, to her, the biggest tension between being a creator and being a promoter. One of her pieces, a little elf called “Santa’s Little Helper”, was a perfect example of this. She had made a jury run of three pieces and she really liked how they turned out. Artful Home liked it too, because they put it in their catalog and suddenly, Terry needed to make a lot of them. This turned out to be more difficult than she had expected as suddenly, things that had gone silky smooth in the first run began to veer astray in production runs. It was a hair raising, late-nights, frustration-fest that really hammered home the idea that it’s really difficult to replicate good art. She sought some help from a fellow artist and they brainstormed some changes to her process. A simple swap of glue brands in the prep phase turned out to be the culprit and Terry was able to finish the order.

You can find Terry’s work on Instagram (@CoGoGlass), and at Terry teaches at Ed Hoy’s and will be at the December One of a Kind show in Chicago.